The Dumbo F train station at York Street is a hot mess. While a majority of neighborhood strap hangers are feeling the pain and rightfully kvetching, architects Perla Delson and Jeff Sherman of Delson or Sherman Architects are leading the fight for a solution. From their office at nearby 20 Jay Street, these F train warriors have created a proposal for a desperately needed second entrance to the York Street station, which would be located in Trinity Park at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. Practical, sustainable and aesthetically impressive, their plan was well received by Andy Byford, the CEO of the NYC Transit Authority. This is excellent news since it is imperative that we get on Byford’s radar to be included in the 54 billion dollar plan to upgrade N.Y.C.’s subways.
In 2009 the ridership at York Street was calculated at 6000/day. Today, the number is a staggering 11,032, which has resulted in packed stairways, long lines, and the anxiety of getting stuck in the crowd. If you’re claustrophobic, you might need to double up on the meds since there is only one route of egress.
According to Delson, almost all subway stations were designed with at least two exits, which allows them to absorb increases in ridership. Not so with York Street. Its long platform with only one path to the street poses a significant danger to riders. There isn’t even a second stair from the token booth to the street, as in virtually every other subway station, just a single crowded exit onto Jay St. It is unsettling to think of what could happen in an emergency. Sherman pointed out that the original architectural plans included an additional entrance by the foot of the Manhattan Bridge but for some unknown reason (financial or scarcity of population at the time?), it was never built.
Unfortunately for Dumbo, CIM, the developers of 85 Jay – the huge development underway across from the York Street station – are under no obligation to give back to the community. “Often big developments are incentivized by the city to provide a community amenity; however, this was not the case in this particular situation,” adds Delson. Hopefully, a community effort can persuade them to do the right thing and contribute to the station upgrade. Buyers of 1-4 million dollar condos might be disappointed to learn that the closest subway station poses a life-safety hazard with massive crowds and only one way out.
The F train station at York Street was always problematic. Every decade posed its own particular set of problems. “Massive columns block the view of the exit, so while I have taken this subway for 25 years, I still sometimes forget which way to turn and catch myself walking in the wrong direction,” states Delson. This experience of momentary disorientation is a common complaint of users of this station, which reveals a problem that needs to be addressed. At the rare times when the station is empty, walking deeper and deeper away from the exit can be scary. This was very frightening during the eighties and nineties and early aughts, when the neighborhood was sparsely populated.
Additional design issues include no visible signage inside and outside of the station. Most stations have directional graphics, but York Street seems to have been sadly forgotten. Accessibility is another concern. Many Dumbo moms with strollers have shared that they often choose to walk to the Borough Hall station where they can utilize the elevator. Navigating the 72 stairs and long ramp at York Street can be a monumental task and nearly impossible if there is not a good Samaritan available and willing to help. The F is also the closest station to the popular Brooklyn Bridge Park, and taxpayers certainly deserve a station that is accessible and safe for all people including those with disabilities.
Delson or Sherman’s comprehensive plan for the second entrance would alleviate these issues. Their proposed location for the station is already wheelchair accessible, since the sidewalk rises to plaza level at the park’s south end. The station would be built around an elevator to the token booth and a ramp to the platform. It also has 3 flights of stairs and 3 turnstiles to handle the crowds. The building is designed to be self-ventilating with sunlight and fresh air cascading down the stairs from the open roof above. A gender-neutral bathroom is also included.
The location is convenient to Dumbo Heights, where the commercial sector is experiencing the greatest amount of development. It would also increase foot traffic in underused Trinity Park. Surrounded by mature trees, it’s a pleasant place to sip your coffee and eat your everything bagel with a schmear of cream cheese before heading to the office.
Keeping with the history of the neighborhood as a creative enclave, Delson or Sherman are planning an art installation under the Manhattan Bridge at the Jay Street jog where Jay and Sands intersect. The proposal involves lighting up the massive columns of the bridge with circular open drains. The drains turn the columns into fountains when it rains. The lighting will also offer a more welcoming and celebratory experience for those entering our amazing neighborhood. The dark empty plaza under the bridge can seem ominous when walking to Sands Street, and the dense columns compromise pedestrian visibility.
Delson or Sherman also plan to add an additional sculptural touch to Dumbo using the Pump House as their medium. This building, which houses the existing entrance, is so nondescript that visitors looking for the subway pass right by it. The architects’ plan is to backlight the building’s louvers as an animated beacon directing pedestrians to the station, while expressing the pulsating energy of the city. Easily visible graphics are also in the plan. More on Delson or Sherman’s plans HERE
Perla Delson and Jeff Sherman, our F train warriors, are circulating a petition and need community support. Dumbo Direct is supporting them in their mission, and you will see us outside the F train collecting signatures. You can also log onto the MTA website and post a comment about the need for a second entrance or whatever else you feel that our community needs for transportation.